The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra is made up of Gretchen Lohse, John Pettit, Laura Baird, Jesse Sparhawk, and Ben Warfield. All of whom bring their own unique influences to the scored and improvisational soundscapes of The Pine Barrens. Here, Ben Warfield recalls the first meeting of the Orchestra, within a cellar pit in what was once the town of Friendship.
Guest writer: Ben Warfield
Five years ago I can remember riding (bouncing) in the back seat of our guide Allen Crawford's CRV as he zipped along dirt roads of sugar sand and around (or through) water-filled dips that would swallow up lesser vehicles. We hit a straight patch of the road and he began to slow. "We're now approaching the ruins of Friendship." The phrase stuck with us throughout that first day and pretty quickly became the moniker of our motley band of local Philadelphia musicians who made the trek out deep into the Pine Barrens to gather our instruments in what was left of the stone-walled basements of the ruined houses in Friendship and let the area infuse some of its spirit into our initial musical experiments. We practiced a call and response with the environment of the Pines, and then with each other. A phrase or idea is presented and then echoed back through each member, who adds their own personality to the sound. Like the Pines themselves, the old ways mix with the new - we use traditional folk instruments right alongside synthesizer and electronics. It gives the score a tension and a strange beauty, that (I hope), echoes the Pines themselves.
Over the years, our compositions have changed as the film has changed - going from a more free-form poetic/experimental tone to a feature-length documentary meant a tighter score needed to be fleshed out, and I'm proud of where this final score is ending up - we haven't lost our improvisatory edge, though. There's a great deal of archival material we'd like to share - including a campfire session from Bodine Field which, we hope, really transports the listener to the Pines with us.
A man of two worlds, Ben Warfield contributes to scientific research studying the biological effects of light on humans while pursuing the larger questions raised by those scientific journeys in the form of music and imagery. He strives to create crystalline compositional spaces to be inhabited by the listener.
When not writing NASA grants or tweaking monochromatic filters at the Light Research Lab in Philadelphia, Warfield can be found recording songs, editing videos for his projections, or wandering out into the night – shooting long-exposure photographs of terrestrial and astronomical phenomena.